In this article, I will suggest some very simple, yet highly effective, things that individuals who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) can carry out to alleviate symptoms of the condition.
It should first be stated that it is extremely important, as far as is possible, for sufferers of BPD to avoid, or minimize stress. This is because it is well known that stress triggers symptoms of BPD. Stressors include problems with family members; problems with partners; financial pressures; important events; and other forms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.
Also, and I will give this piece of advice a paragraph all to itself because of its importance, one’s living environment should be as stress-free and secure as possible. Of course, this cannot usually be achieved immediately, but, if this is indeed the case, should be borne in mind for the future.
None of us can avoid stress completely, of course; and, because people with BPD react much more intensely to stress than others, and, also, take much longer to calm down again once they become stressed, it is useful for sufferers to have a variety of techniques at their disposal to increase their ability to deal with stress. Such techniques include :
– going for a walk (walks in natural environments are particularly beneficial)
– having a massage
– getting the right amount of sleep (on average, this is about eight hours; however, there are individual differences and some people may require significantly more, especially if unwell). Often, people with BPD suffer sleep problems such as early morning waking, difficulty getting to sleep, shallow and disturbed sleep with frequent waking etc. However, it is worth remembering that getting upset because one can’t sleep only makes getting to sleep more difficult still.
– try to keep to a healthy diet and lifestyle (click here for my article on this)
– whenever you cope well with a stressful event, or in a way that improves upon how you normally cope, give yourself a reward
– take up an interest or hobby. One benefit of this is that it can act as a distraction and prevent you from obsessively, negatively ruminating and dwelling upon morbid thoughts. Furthermore, it can provide opportunities to meet others
– take exercise regularly. It is known that exercise elevates a person’s mood. In the UK, doctors recommend about 20 minutes of mild to moderate exercise per day
– avoid illicit drugs
– talk to others about whatever is causing stress to gain an alternative perspective, eg friend, counsellor, doctor etc
– read books about the condition and educate yourself about it. Understanding why one behaves in the way one does is a vital step towards getting well and can alleviate the feelings of irrational guilt that are so frequent in those who suffer from BPD. (Reading and learning about one’s condition for therapeutic reasons is sometimes referred to as bibliotherapy.)
– carry out research online relating to recovery from BPD
Why Borderline Personality Disorder Sufferers Should be Optimistic
Mercifully, the days of mental health professionals believing that borderline personality disorder (BPD) is an untreatable condition are over. Empirical studies are rapidly accruing, demonstrating that there ARE now effective therapies (for example, dialectical behaviour therapy, also known as DBT – click here to read my article on this).
Furthermore, it is now acknowledged that BPD is an extremely serious condition. This acknowledgement is important as it increases the likelihood of research into the illness attracting greater funding. Indeed, research into both the causes of BPD and therapies to treat it is really beginning to take off.
Also, in the days when BPD was poorly understood and more highly stigmatized, psychiatrists were reluctant to give their patients with the condition. However, in these rather more enlightened times, those who meet the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual) criteria are much more likely to be given the diagnosis than before. This is vitally important as it allows the patient to know what s/he is up against, seek appropriate treatment, gain an understanding of what may have caused the condition, and generally research it for the purposes of self-help and informed decision-making.
As public awareness of BPD grows, too, there are likely to be an increasing number of support groups for not only sufferers but for their families, as well. In relation to family education, it is becoming increasingly acknowledged, too, that early professional intervention into highly dysfunctional families may well help lower the incidence of members of such families going on to develop BPD.
There is also reason to be encouraged about what future research into BPD might find. For example :
– building up more empirical evidence for the effectiveness of currently available therapies
– matching patients to the therapy type which is likely to be of most benefit to them (as there are many possible treatments for BPD).
– discovering which factors, in particular, make some individuals more vulnerable to BPD than others
– discovering more about which factors help protect individuals from developing BPD.
– learning more about the contribution of genes to the condition (there is already evidence suggesting that a person’s genetic make-up does play a part).
Whilst, then, there are already effective treatments for BPD, these will inevitably improve as time goes on, giving those who suffer from the condition every reason to be optimistic.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).